I have been beset by feelings of anxiety over the last few weeks. My recent blogs have described how my mindfulness and compassion meditation practice have helped me. They have enabled me to turn towards and experience the anxiety. They have enabled me to look after myself, in my meditation practice and in my daily life, during this time of difficulty. They have enabled me to cultivate the resources of kindness, strength and wisdom to be with the experiences. They have enabled me to ask for help and to share my difficulties with my family, friends and colleagues, who have been enormously supportive. So, what is fear?
One of the biggest blocks I have
uncovered was that I was ashamed at being so beset by fear. I had an idea about
myself that I ‘should’ be able to cope skilfully with whatever life throws at
me. After all, I am an experienced meditator and an experienced mindfulness
teacher. I am supposed to be an expert in the field! On turning towards and
feeling the shame I was able to share this with trusted family and friends.
Their response was universally that there was nothing to be ashamed of. This
really helped to normalise the feeling of shame and gain a broader perspective.
I am very moved by the support I have received and very pleased that I have
been able to ask for support.
I have been doing compassionate imagery practices from our Level 2 compassion course. In particular, compassionate image and compassionate colour. These are available on our free compassion based living app. When I first encountered these practices I was quite dismissive of them, but over the years as I have practiced them more and more, I have understood their power. Now when I bring them to mind I can feel strong and safe, I can draw on resources of kindness and clear seeing, that help me to face the difficulties of life.
This morning I was doing the
compassionate colour practice. I was giving myself a hug and bathing in a
‘ready brek’ orange glow which enveloped and coursed through my body. I felt
relaxed and the feelings of anxiety had abated.
All this mindfulness and
compassion meditation and daily life practice created conditions for an insight
to arise – or I could say to re-arise. The insight wasn’t just the concepts
that arose, which I know intellectually anyway. It was a deeper, felt sense,
knowing that emerged. What Rob Nairn calls ‘recognition’. It started with ‘What
is fear anyway?’.
I recognised that the fear was a
biological response, due to millions of years of evolution. I recognised that
the biological response was itself a response to imagined future scenarios and
that this tendency to imagine was itself, due to hundreds of thousands of years
of evolution. I recognised that my particular style of imagining was a result
of old strategies to stay safe, that were no longer effective. I recognised
that all this worked together as an automated system, without inherent
intelligence. I recognised that I had a choice not to buy into the feelings of
fear and the messages about myself that the fear carried.
After this experience, I felt
relieved and joyful. I wanted to capture this insight in words in this blog so
as to really inhabit it. To reinforce the recognition.
None of this would be possible
without the insight training I have undertaken with Rob Nairn, along with my
exceptionally gifted colleagues within the Mindfulness Association. I am truly
grateful for it and for them. I feel another chink of freedom shining through
the armour of my conditioning and deeply held expectations and assumptions.
With the publication of the long awaited book, From Mindfulness to Insight, setting out the key elements of the insight training, my deep wish is that more people are able to cultivate the skills of recognition, which are so freeing. At the Mindfulness Association we are also making our Level 3 Insight training more widely available, to all who have a mindfulness meditation practice, of whatever flavour.
My wish is that more people are
able to free themselves from fear and find more freedom to flourish in their
lives. The compassionate imagery practices are a good place to begin!